Monday, August 10, 2015

Google Updates Local Pack: What You Can Do to Boost Your Local Ranking

 Google Updates Local Pack to Show Fewer Results

google update local pack

 Last week, you may have noticed a slight difference to local results displayed on Google's Local Pack-- 3 results instead of 7. Google updated the search results displayed in the query to show fewer local business listings to allow for a more mobile-friendly experience. This redesign allows the results to fit better when searching from mobile devices.

"We are constantly exploring the best way to bring a better search experience to our users," said a Google spokesperson about the update. "This update provides people with more relevant information, including photos, reviews, and prices, for searched that have multiple results for  given location."

What's the update mean for you?

With the reduction in queries displayed, local businesses now face a bigger challenge to ensure they rank in the top three, instead of the top seven. The Local Pack update will lead to reduced visibility, which will impact the amount of customers who view a local business if they rank lower than 3rd position. This means now more than ever, local businesses need to focus on local SEO to strengthen their appearance in the Local Pack.

What can you can do to boost your ranking?

Business owners who rely on local customers need to focus on a local SEO campaign. Unlike your average SEO strategies, local SEO consists of specific signals that rank businesses in the Local Pack.

These include:
  • Business Signals-- Categories, keywords, title, location, etc.
  • On-Site Signals-- Presence of NAP, keywords, domain authority, titles, etc.
  • Link Signals-- Inbound anchor texts, linking domain authority and quantity, etc.
  • Review Signals-- Review quantity, review diversity, review velocity, etc.
  • Social Signals-- Google +, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, and other social media activity.
  • Website Behaviors-- Click through rates, bounce rates, call to actions, etc.

Claim Your Business Listing

You must claim your business page on Google or you don't stand a chance of ranking on the top 3 Local Pack. Your Google My Business Page contains the necessary aspects to clearly alert Google to your business and its location.

Your page needs to be well optimized and structured with a long and unique description using keywords and links. In addition, fill out your business's categories correctly, add relevant photos, and ensure your business information is correct, like your phone number, address, and hours of operation. Use a high resolution photo for both your profile image and cover photo.

Build Local Reviews

Reviews mean everything in today's world with more people trusting online reviews than word of mouth recommendations, which is why Google weighs reviews heavily when selecting the local businesses to appear in the Local Pack. Focus on building REAL reviews from REAL people on a number of sites. DO NOT cut corners and pay for fake reviews!!

Local On-Site SEO

Your website must include key information to promote the location of your business. You need to incorporate the location, such as the city and relevant keywords in each of these areas on your website:
  • Landing page title tag
  • Landing page H1
  • Landing page URL
  • Landing page content
  • Landing page ALT attributes
And, don't forget to embed your Google map with your business's location marked on your landing page.

Establish Local Citations

Local link building is critical, also known as a citation. Basically, a citation is a reference to your business than includes your name, address, and phone number, also known as NAP. The more NAP references you have, the higher you'll rank.

Promote Your Website Experience

With Google taking the user experience into consideration so heavily, you need to ensure your website promotes a user-friendly experience-- no matter the device used to visit your site. This will help your click through rates to boost your Quality Score.

With the Google update to the Local Pack, businesses relying on local customers need to step up their game as their chance for appearing in the Local Pack as been cut in half! It's not an impossible challenge to overcome, but it will take some consistent work to local SEO campaigns.

Has your business been impacted by the Local Pack update? What strategies do you have in place to climb back up in ranking?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Small Business Marketing: SEO or SMM?

Small businesses with limited marketing budgets often ask me what's the best marketing avenue to take: search engine optimization or social media marketing? Due to their small budget, they feel they can only invest in one of the two options. Unfortunately, it's not an either or question. SEO and SMM go hand-in-hand. If you want to see real results, you need to invest in both-- not just one or the other.

Small Business Marketing

Many small businesses only choose SEO because they want a good ranking with high traffic to their site. So they spend time optimizing their site and develop a strong keyword strategy to support their blogging and content marketing. But, then they need a distribution outlet for their content marketing or they aren't going to see large results. The most popular and effective form of content distribution is social media, which is why you must invest in both. If you just stop at SEO, you're cutting your potential success in half.

On the other hand, many think social media is enough because they are able to engage with customers and drive traffic to their website with referrals, but what are customers going to see when they get there? They are going to see the exact same thing every time. Why will they have a reason to return?

You need a content marketing strategy to give customers a reason to return to your site other than just for purchases. They need a reason to head back to your site with a blog and additional content to add value to their experience. Plus, the more you blog, the more pages you'll have indexed to increase your Google ranking. The more pages you have to share on social media, the higher the potential for referral traffic from social shares. Not to mention, content distribution on social media will help build engagement across all platforms because there's always something new to discuss.

Combining SEO and SMM

The majority of leads that result in a customer walking through your door are generated from SMM with 7 out of 10 customers preferring a business that's active on social media.  Not to mention, 1 out of 3 customers prefer to contact a business through social media instead of phone calls.

The combination of both SEO and SMM leads to more emails, contact form responses, and an overall increase in organic and referral traffic. Combined, this will build your business's brand, which is largely driven by SEO from blogging and content marketing.

To make sure the most accurate audience possible is reading your content and to generate more leads, social media is the place to be. Sure, a high ranking on Google comes from SEO, but you won't be able to target as specific as with SMM.

Social media is also a ranking factor, so if you really want that high ranking, you need to have both  SEO and SMM strategies. It's not a one or the other deal. If you really want to make the most of  your marketing, even on a limited budget, you can't just choose one. Even if you end up going over your budget, the return will more than cover the added upfront expenses.

If you only choose one, it's like only wearing one shoe. Sure, you'll get to where you need to go, but you're going to limp along and it will take you longer to reach your ultimate goal. 
If you need help developing a higher ranking with SEO and SMM, contact me today to learn more. No matter your budget, there's always a way to make the most of both worlds.